Moscow is a place on contradictions. Every guide-book refers to the The Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and a vast number of other spectacular buildings constructed at huge cost. Yet outside the walls of these places are scores of people who are quite plainly living below the breadline, from babushkas who beg to veteran soldiers sleeping in doorways. On the East side of Red Sqaure sits the opulent GUM department store, housed beneath a trio of spectacular glass arched roofs, and containing many stores more usually at home in Milan or on Madison Avenue.
It seems that Moscow wants to show a modern, successfully free-market face to the West — and the city does have a fairly cosmopolitan European appearance — and is spending millions of dollars creating incentives for Western businesses to come to Russia. Unfortunately, the stores are empty apart from a few window shoppers and the occasional tourist, as locals simply cannot afford to shop there.